Honorary Degree Recipients: Fall 2017
Micheal O'Siadhail

Micheal O'Siadhail, B.A., M.Litt.(Trinity)

Honourary Doctor of Letters (honoris causa) on Tuesday, October 17, 2017, at 3:30 pm

Micheal O’Siadhail, one of Ireland’s finest and most prolific poets, grew up in middle-class Dublin in the 1950s.

While attending a Jesuit boarding school as a teenager, he discovered his love of poetry. It was a fitting medium for the impassioned youth, who felt things deeply and was intrigued by language.

He pursued a Master of Letters from Trinity College Dublin and would continue on with this post-secondary institution from 1969 to 1973 in his career as a linguistics academic. In his role as a professor at the Dublin Institute for Advanced Studies that followed, Mr. O’Siadhail pioneered a textbook and audio collection titled Learning Irish that remains the standard introductory course on the topic around the world.

The pull of poetry was strong and Mr. O’Siadhail left academia in 1987. His intuitive grasp of the human experience has since made him a treasured poet with works translated in countries across the globe.

Mr. O’Siadhail has written 16 collections of poetry, alternating between public and private spheres, exploring themes as varied as friendship, history, trust, love, language, mortality and the Holocaust. This international scholar who speaks 10 languages feels equally at home in Norway, Iceland, England, the U.S. and Canada. His recent collection of poetry, titled Tongues, reflects his truly global perspective.

His poetry achieves a level of intensity while still being accessible, the latter of which Mr. O’Siadhail believes in wholeheartedly. He has served as editor of the Poetry Ireland Review, established and first chaired the Ireland Literature Exchange, and was a founding member of Aosdána, the Academy of Distinguished Irish Artists.

Bringing his keen intellect and artistic insight to students and fellow academics, he has served as a visiting professor, writer-in-residence and guest lecturer around the world, including at Harvard and Yale universities.

His work has been awarded the Irish-American Cultural Institute Prize for Poetry, the Marten Toonder Award, and the Poetry Book of the Year from the Sunday Tribune. In 2003, The Gossamer Wall: Poems in Witness to the Holocaust was shortlisted for the Jewish Quarterly-Wingate Literary Prize.

His inspiration finds its roots in theatre, classical music and jazz; he sees their intrinsic connection to poetry, through rhythm, alliteration and rhyme. Passionate about his art, Mr. O’Siadhail likens each of his poems to a child he sends off into the world to engage and explore.

The University of Manitoba is proud to award a Doctor of Letters, honoris causa, to Mr. Micheal O’Siadhail, who stands tall in the mighty pantheon of Irish poets.

Miriam Toews

Miriam Toews, O.M., B.A.(Manitoba), B.A.(King's), D.Litt.(Brandon), D.Litt. (Winnipeg), D.C.L.(King's), LL.D. (Windsor)

Honourary Doctor of Letters (honoris causa) on Wednesday, October 18, 2017, at 3:30 pm

Ms. Miriam Toews was born in Steinbach, Man., in 1964 and has become one of Manitoba’s most original and brave voices, authoring seven critically acclaimed books.

Her novels explore topics society generally prefers to ignore, such as mental illness and suicide. Yet her deft use of humour disarms the reader and allows her to connect in profound ways as she relates her own experiences of growing up in a Mennonite family that suffered tragic losses.

A direct descendent of one of the first Mennonites to settle in Steinbach, Ms. Toews embraced her Prairie roots and in her youth rode horses competitively, both dressage and barrel-racing. She left Steinbach at 18, moving to Montreal and London before returning to Winnipeg where she completed a Bachelor of Arts in Film Studies at the University of Manitoba in 1989. In 1991, she earned her Bachelor of Arts in Journalism at the University of King’s College in Halifax.

Her first novel grew from a radio documentary she was working on for the CBC about single mothers struggling within the Manitoba welfare system. She believed more had to be said beyond what journalism’s boundaries allowed for, leading to her first novel, Summer of My Amazing Luck. It shattered stereotypes and granted dignity to characters who so often have it stripped away. As a result, she won the John Hirsch Award for the Most Promising Manitoba Writer in 1996.

Her third novel, the bestseller A Complicated Kindness, explores religious hypocrisy in a Manitoba Mennonite town and is revered for its brilliance and beauty. It won the Governor General’s Award for Fiction and was shortlisted for the Scotia Bank Giller Prize, an honour she has twice received.

The accolades continue as her latest work, her sixth novel, All My Puny Sorrows, won the Rogers Writers’ Trust Fiction Prize. This striking narrative explores the strength of sisters. In 2010, Ms. Toews lost her older sister to suicide, 12 years after her father took his own life. In his voice, she wrote a moving memoir Swing Low: A Life.

Ms. Toews has written for The New York Times Magazine, Geist, The Guardian, Saturday Night and Canadian Geographic. Her perceptions of life have been successfully adapted to other media: Two of her novels have been performed on the stage, and in 2007, she played the lead role in the Mexican film Silent Light, which won the Cannes Jury Prize that year. In 2013, Ms. Toews was inducted into the Order of Manitoba.

The University of Manitoba is proud to award a Doctor of Letters, honoris causa, to Ms. Miriam Toews, a novelist who sheds lights on our inner struggles, bravely sharing her personal journey.

Honourable Douglas D. Everett

Honourable Douglas D. Everett, LL.B.(Osgoode), LL.B.(Manitoba)

Honourary Doctor of Laws (honoris causa), on Thursday, October 19, 2017, at 3:30 pm

The Honourable Douglas D. Everett served in the Canadian Senate for almost three decades and remains one of Manitoba’s most successful entrepreneurs.

Born in Vancouver in 1927, he grew up with the strong moral compass and work ethic displayed by his parents, and the competitive spirit of three siblings.

In 1943, he joined the Royal Canadian Navy as a 16-year-old cadet at Royal Rhodes Military College. He served for four years and retired as a sub-lieutenant. He graduated from Toronto’s Osgoode Hall Law School in 1950 and from the University of Manitoba’s Faculty of Law in 1951.

He charted a course in business at his father’s Winnipeg car dealership, Dominion Motors, which was Canada’s largest Ford dealership. In 1970, his entrepreneurial spirit pushed the company into an innovative foray to create a chain of gas kiosks at grocery stores.

Senator Everett leased a small spot of land on three Safeway parking lots, installing two-pump kiosks. Such low overhead created savings he could pass along to the customer and he had effectively levelled the playing field against industry giants Shell and Imperial Oil. The iconic Domo brand is now among Canada’s largest independent gas retailers with more than 90 locations across Western Canada. The company is one of several that make up Royal Canadian Securities, of which Senator Everett remains chairman emeritus and strategic advisor.

Humble by nature, he credits his business success to the individuals who made up his team. His visionary leadership earned their loyalty and many Domo employees enjoyed careers that stretched four decades.

As the company expanded and grew into a major industry player, the astute businessman caught the attention of Prime Minister Lester Pearson, who called him to the Senate in 1966. At the time, he was the youngest person to have joined our nation’s Upper Chamber, at just 39 years old.

As chairman of the Committee on National Finance, he sought out inefficiencies in government departments, and criticized policy on wage and price control, the inflation rate and our unemployment system. His convictions prompted him to sit as an Independent in the Senate and, in 1988, he made headlines around the world when he began to donate his Senate salary back to the Crown, which he did until his retirement in 1994.

He and his late wife, Patty, then turned their attention to philanthropy with transformational gifts in health care, the arts, and education that have bolstered neurodegenerative research, championed creative works, and enriched the experience of post-secondary students.

The University of Manitoba is proud to award a Doctor of Laws, honoris causa, to the Honourable Douglas D. Everett, an entrepreneur and philanthropist who fulfilled his civic duty to the highest accord.

Elder Louis Peninshish (Bird)

Elder Louis Peninshish (Bird), Journalism Cert. (Confederation)

Honourary Doctor of Letters (honoris causa), on Thursday, October 19, 2017, at 3:30 pm

Born on Hudson Bay’s west coast in 1934, Elder Louis Peninshish gained an appreciation early on for the traditional stories of the Omushkego Cree peoples.

His childhood was spent by his mother’s side, as she performed the tasks that allowed their family of 10 to live off the land. She would share stories with him passed down over generations that celebrate the culture, spiritual practices, beliefs and history of the Omushkegowak.

Elder Peninshish’s love of their holistic way of life would survive the pain of four years at Ste. Anne Residential School in Fort Albany, beginning at age five. His life experiences, both the joys and the sorrows, shaped his journey and pushed him to continue his pursuit to preserve and celebrate the stories of his people.

As a young adult, he took on various jobs in neighbouring communities and encountered a growing number of Elders who enabled him to record even more stories. In 1955, he worked on the Winisk radar station, and later as a line cutter, surveyor’s assistant, winter tractor operator, carpenter’s helper, and section man for CN Rail. He has also served as band councillor and chief in Winisk, and in 1970 began work as a translator and consultant.

All the while, Elder Peninshish has remained a fierce protector of a culture steeped in oral tradition, dedicating more than five decades to the collection, narration and recording of more than 340 hours of Cree legends and traditional teachings. He has brought the history of his people to audiences across Canada, the United States and overseas, sharing these teachings in Cree and English at storytelling festivals and universities.

With a light heart and a quick wit, he brings to life the wisdom of his ancestors for the world to hear and learn from. A living archive, Elder Peninshish has published two books, The Spirit Lives in The Mind: Omushkego Stories, Lives, and Dreams and Telling our Stories: Omushkego Legends & Histories from Hudson Bay. He also narrates all stories recorded on the website, ourvoices.ca.

His expertise as a cultural historian is well-established and highly sought by government officials, curators, scholars and students across various disciplines. He has informed decisions on everything from educational funding to environmental legislation and economic development.

The University of Manitoba is proud to award a Doctor of Letters, honoris causa, to Mr. Louis Peninshish, a treasure to the Omushkego peoples and to all Canadians.